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Routine screening for ovarian cancer isn't currently recommended because early signs and symptoms are considered nonspecific and unreliable. But researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle could accurately predict ovarian cancer based on the duration and frequency of these key signs and symptoms:


* pelvic/abdominal pain


* urinary urgency/frequency


* increased abdominal size/bloating


* difficulty eating/feeling full.



This symptom index was considered positive for ovarian cancer if any of these signs and symptoms occurred more than 12 times a month for less than a year.


The study involved 149 women with ovarian cancer, 255 women with a high risk of developing the cancer, and 233 women referred for pelvic or abdominal ultrasound. The symptom index was 90% specific in identifying ovarian cancer in women older than age 50 and nearly 87% specific in women under 50. The researchers recommend more research to test its value as a general screening tool.




Goff BA, et al., Development of an ovarian cancer symptom index: possibilities for earlier detection, Cancer, January 15, 2007.